NASA explores the cloud with Nebula

Home-grown cloud computing environment designed to let outside scientists contribute

Performing climate modeling and simulation via a software service is not NASA's only effort to facilitate collaboration with outside scientists and researchers. The agency also has launched a cloud computing pilot project, called Nebula, that uses open-source components hosted in a containerized data center to create a self-service for high-capacity computing, storage and network connectivity.

The primary container is located at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California and hosted on the Ames Internet Exchange. The AIX, formerly the Mae West Internet node, is a major peering location for Tier 1 Internet service providers and also houses the Internet’s E root servers. The goal of Nebula is to take advantage of the economies of scale offered by cloud computing, giving researchers quick access to a scalable, high-performance infrastructure while also sharing data with the public.

Related stories

NASA readies modeling and simulation for launch in browsers

Open-source tools could make it easier to build a hybrid cloud

NASA built its own cloud because no commercially available service met its needs for high bandwidth and compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act. The Nebula environment is FISMA-compliant and has the advantage of creating one platform for resources that might otherwise have been housed on a variety of systems, thus reducing vulnerability to attackers. Although it is secure, Nebula houses only publicly available data and no sensitive information.

The architecture is designed to be interoperable with commercial services so that researchers can share datasets and code for commercial offerings. NASA’s legal department is working to ensure that contributors’ code is covered by a licensing agreement that would allow Nebula to be recognized as open source.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


  • Pierce County

    CARES dashboard ensures county spending delivers results

    The CARES Act Funding Outcomes Dashboard helps Pierce County, Wash., monitor funding and key performance indicators for public health emergency response, economic stabilization and recovery, community response and resilience, and essential government services.

  • smart city challenge

    AI-based traffic management improves mobility, saves fuel, cuts pollution

    Researchers are developing a dynamic feedback traffic signal control system that reduces corridor-level fuel consumption by 20% while maintaining a safe and efficient transportation environment.

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.